Katie Meyer

Matt Rourke / AP

As Pennsylvania lawmakers fight over the details of a long-overdue budget funding plan, the commonwealth is having trouble covering short-term costs.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The GOP-controlled state Senate has formally rejected a conservative budget plan passed by the House—essentially resetting negotiations nearly three months past the deadline.

Now, Republicans in the House and Senate will attempt to work with Governor Tom Wolf to figure out a compromise.

Wolf has said he wants to get the budget done by October first.

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that’s a stretch.

Matt Rourke / AP

Senators are trying to figure out how to move forward on the stalled state budget.

They’re planning to formally vote against a conservative House funding plan Wednesday in hopes of kick-starting an expedited process known as a conference committee.

However, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

After receiving it last week, Senate leaders quickly made it clear they don’t support a House proposal that would close the $2.2 billion budget gap primarily with one-time fund transfers instead of taxes.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

UPDATED: 4:18 p.m. Sept. 20, 2017*

The state Auditor General’s office has released a report that alleges a provider of abortion-alternative services misused taxpayer dollars.

Real Alternatives has been receiving state grants through the Department of Human Services for 20 years.

All of it is supposed to go to the subcontractors that actually carry out abortion alternative services.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week.

Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans—though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.

Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists.

Matt Rourke / AP

The commonwealth is putting off paying over a billion dollars to insurers who administer Medicaid benefits, because its main bank account is almost out of money.

It will be at least a week before the state can afford to pay, and the delay will probably mean the insurers will charge interest.

In some ways, this is a recurring problem for the commonwealth: bills come due at the beginning of the fiscal year, but revenue doesn’t come in until later.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes—something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House is still working on a plan to fill a $2.2 billion dollar gap in a budget that is almost three months late.

But negotiations took an unexpected turn Tuesday when the chamber adjourned suddenly without holding an expected vote on a plan from a conservative faction of members.

On Monday, House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin had appeared fairly sure a vote would happen the next day.

But something happened in the hours since then that stalled the process.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Advocates for overhauling the redistricting process packed the Capitol rotunda Tuesday hoping to persuade lawmakers to take their quest seriously.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are considered among the most unfair in the country.

Matt Rourke / AP

Heated speeches could be heard from the House GOP’s closed caucus room Monday night, as a conservative faction attempted—for several hours—to rally support for a budget funding plan that wouldn’t raise taxes.

They’ll probably vote on the proposal sometime Tuesday—whether or not it’ll actually pass.

House GOP leaders largely avoided commenting on the situation.

Matt Rourke / AP

Agencies are raising alarms over a GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars to fill gaps in the state’s badly unbalanced budget.

The proposal comes from a conservative faction of the House.

Supporters say it wouldn’t impact state departments, because the money to be transferred is all surplus that has increased over the last few years without being spent.

But a number of agencies say they’d be profoundly affected.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the funds identified as “surplus” are virtually all committed for future projects.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP, file

One of Congress’s most vocal moderates has announced he’s stepping down.

Pennsylvania’s 15th District representative, Republican Charlie Dent, announced late on Thursday that he won’t seek reelection next year—a decision he said he came to in mid-summer.

Dent has cut a distinct path over the course of his seven terms in Congress.

Recently, he opposed a GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—a move that reportedly led President Donald Trump to tell Dent he was “destroying the Republican Party.”

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania is in its third month with no balanced budget.

Governor Tom Wolf, Senate Democrats and Republicans, and House Democrats are pushing House Republicans to agree to a compromise plan that would raise some taxes and borrow money to fill a $2.2 billion shortfall.

The caucus is still holding out—and even its own members appear conflicted on what to do.

About 20 of the House’s more conservative members released a plan this week to balance the budget on transfers from the special state funds that help pay for things like transportation and parks.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Mt. Lebanon office of Rep. Tim Murphy Wednesday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Children's Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds.

Eighteen rank and file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan, which they named “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”

It would transfer cash from the so-called “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances.

Matt Rourke / AP

Election officials across the country are trying to make sure voting infrastructure is up to date, after concerns over potential hacking in the 2016 election.

Pennsylvania is no exception.

In 2002, the federal government handed down almost $4 billion for states to update their voting machines and other election equipment. Most states—including Pennsylvania—have long since drained their share.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

For several months, the state Health Department has been refusing to disclose who is on the panels that scored applications for medical marijuana licenses.

But now, the Department of Open Records is ordering the agency to release the information. 

The Open Records decision comes after protracted back-and-forth between the DOH and PennLive.

After releasing permits to grow, process and sell medical marijuana to select applicants, the department wouldn’t name the panelists who had made those decisions.

casey.senate.gov

Statewide political party leaders are starting to hone their messaging for—and against—candidates, more than a year before the midterm elections

Particular attention is already being paid to Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, between incumbent Democrat Bob Casey and one of several Republican challengers.

The emails have been coming steadily for a few months now.

Salvos from the state Republican Party criticize Casey’s votes against cutting funds to sanctuary cities, or his shifts to the left on abortion and gun control.

Messages from the Democrats are similar.

Tony Talbot / AP

One of the root causes of opioid addiction is over-prescription of addictive drugs.

A major reason it occurs is the practice of doctor shopping — when people visit five or more prescribers in hopes of getting drugs. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A Department of Health report out this week has shown that only 28 percent of Pennsylvania children undergo recommended lead testing.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

More than eight months after a fight over funding for the state’s jobless program, the Wolf administration says the program is still working inadequately, and needs more money soon.

At a House committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers attempted to hammer out how to make a long-term fix. But many left saying they still didn’t have enough information.

In April, the legislature authorized a short-term, $15 million funding solution, which was designed to tide over the Unemployment Compensation Program and kick-start upgrades to its decades-old computer system.

Matt Rourke / AP

Prices are on the rise for some of the most popular wines and liquors sold in state stores.

It’s the first hike more than two decades, thanks to a new law passed last year that gave the LCB the ability to flexibly price its products.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state Department of Environmental Protection is working to speed up the training of several new water inspectors, in an effort to bring water safety measures across the state up to snuff.

The move comes after the federal Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter saying the commonwealth is failing to enforce water safety standards, and urging DEP officials to seek emergency funding to fix the situation.

The DEP recently hired two staff members, and officials said they’re expediting training on four more.

Kalim Bhatti / AP

A new law going into effect Friday aims to cut down on drunk driving.

It requires first-time offenders to have breathalyzers installed in their cars—something 48 other states already do.

Car breathalyzers—officially called Ignition Interlock Systems—require drivers to blow into a device to start their vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, the car won’t start, and it’ll also register the attempt.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

With talk swirling of possible spending freezes over the unbalanced state budget, counties are trying to figure out how they may be impacted.

County commissioners are beginning to put together contingency plans in case any of their state funds get cut off.

Governor Tom Wolf has already stopped some spending to put it into budgetary reserves, and indicated this week that more could be coming.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Lt. Governor Mike Stack, a Democrat, has been facing scrutiny for several months—ever since he was stripped of his police detail and personal staff for verbally abusing them.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

If Pennsylvania’s $2.2 billion budget gap isn’t filled soon, Governor Tom Wolf is indicating the commonwealth could be heading for major spending freezes.

Wolf said Tuesday that the situation could be resolved if House Republicans would just agree to a Senate revenue plan that includes several new taxes.

Caucus leaders are, for the most part, staying mum on how their negotiations are progressing.

By Sept. 15, the governor said he either has to put spending for certain state programs on hold, or borrow more money from the Treasury.

Matt Rourke / AP

A state Senate proposal that would essentially charge protesters for being arrested is causing some backlash at the Capitol.

The GOP sponsor says it would protect taxpayers from bearing the cost of violent or destructive protests.

But opponents say it will infringe on free speech.

First-term Republican Senator Scott Martin of Lancaster County said he was inspired to write the bill after hearing of the damage Dakota Access Pipeline protesters did last year.  

But he noted, it could actually apply much more widely.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It’s been nearly a month since the state Senate voted through a revenue plan that would fund the state budget—if the House agrees to it.

 

But Harrisburg watchdogs are still poring over it to figure out where money is going.

 

The right-leaning Commonwealth Foundation has released a report detailing instances where senators slipped spending into a bill meant to fund the budget.

 

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania has had an unbalanced budget for nearly a month, and advocacy groups around the commonwealth say they have real concerns Governor Tom Wolf will soon have to start freezing spending as a result.

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